Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celebrating the Past at French Lick Resort


By Joy Neighbors
It all began in 1973 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated May as Preservation Month. Today, French Lick Resort is celebrating the month with several vintage displays set up to let guests get a glimpse of the past.

Vintage Cars
1926 Ford Model T Touring Edition
The 1926 Ford Model T Touring Edition is parked in front of French Lick Springs Hotel. Once the average worker could afford a “Tin Lizzie,” life began to change in America. People loved this car for its low price, versatility, durability and ease of maintenance. It was the first vehicle in the country to use standard interchangeable parts. The Model T had a 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that had to be hand-cranked to start, and got anywhere from 13 to 21 miles per gallon. With all the stops pulled out, the “Tin Lizzie” could get up to the terrifying speed of 45 miles per hour. The Model T was manufactured from 1908 through 1927.

1929 Ford Model A Coupe
This sleek 1929 Ford Model A Coupe, complete with a rumble seat, looks at home with West Baden Springs Hotel in the background. Parked in front of the old Billiards and Bowling Pavilion in the Formal Gardens, guests are encouraged to pose for photos by the roadster. The Model A sported several features the Model T did not: a three-speed sliding gear transmission, a four-wheel break system, hydraulic shock absorbers, and a safety-glass windshield. And dare devils pushing it to the limit could get a Model A up to a blistering 65 miles per hour. Over five million cars were sold between 1928 and 1932.

1929 Rolls Royce Phantom 1
And then there’s the legendary “Flying Lady.” This 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom One with the St Andrews body style is one classic beauty. Originally owned by former Indianapolis mayor and former French Lick Springs Hotel owner, Thomas Taggart, this Rolls would seat seven and originally cost $18,500 - the equivalent of over $260,000 today. It was used for private transportation, and provided a nice ride for visiting politicians and celebrities. It recently took six years to restore the car at the cost $365,000, but she's now back in all her glory.
The Flying Lady, out for a spin
According to resort Transportation Manager Sam Ray, “We take these vehicles out for special events, or to use as props in scheduled photo shoots. Of course, we have to keep them running so I get to take them out and drive them. People love to see them – they stop and wave. In the summer, I’ll stop by one of the hotels in my chauffeur’s uniform and pick up guests just for the fun of it,” Sam smiles and nods, “Everyone loves that!”

Vintage Casino Machines
Mid Century Casino Games
Casino games have also seen major changes over the years. Today, a casino floor is alive with sound, flash and movement, but there once was a time when a slot machine didn’t make much sound until you won. On display at the French Lick Casino this month are slot machines from the 1940s and an “old-fashioned” roulette wheel. 
"Old Fashioned" Roulette Wheel
Roulette, the French word for “little wheel” was invented in 1796. The game became popular in the U.S. in the 19th century and today remains favored, thanks to online gaming. Other displays at the casino include china used at former gambling sites in the area, and post cards from several local gambling establishments of the early 20th century.
More history is waiting to be discovered at French Lick Resort, not just during Preservation Month, but every day of the year!